Brian Hoyer’s story is fantastic. Much like head coach Rod Chudzinski, he grew up a Browns’ fan and loved Bernie Kosar growing up. His rise from St. Ignatius to Michigan State to being an undrafted free agent as a member of the New England Patriots before a stopover on the street, the Arizona Cardinals and then the Browns is awesome. Mike Lombardi looks somewhat vindicated in his nonstop love for Hoyer to this point. The fact that quarterback has started out 2-0, which makes him the first since Mark Rypien in 1994 (yes, that actually happened), is unbelievable considering where this team appeared to be a week and a half ago. Nothing would be better than Hoyer becoming the franchise quarterback for this team and being the guy who can deliver their first championship since 1964, but that is unlikely and he is better suited to a long term backup than he is a starter. The Browns cannot make the mistake of falling in love with the romantic story and notion of high school hero making it big and make the mistake of not getting a franchise quarterback to elevate this team and potentially put them in the Super Bowl.
There are no doubt fans and some media types will naturally gravitate to the comparison and bring Kurt Warner into the conversation. Like Hoyer, he bounced around the league a little bit, bagged groceries a little bit and some people will point out that Warner was available in the expansion draft when the Browns came back into the league. Warner came in for the injured Trent Green and led the Rams to the Super Bowl and went onto have what should be a Hall of Fame caliber career. The odds of that happening again are somewhere between getting struck by lightning twice and winning the lottery. More likely outcome? Derek Anderson in 2007. Chud had a front row seat for that as his play calling allowed him to go to the Pro Bowl along with Vince Young after seemingly half the league dropped out of the event.
More importantly, the evidence that Hoyer is not the guy is on the field. There are a lot of areas he does well. He gets rid of the ball quickly, can make some accurate throws and has a reasonably strong arm. He runs the offense relatively well and does a good job of getting the ball into the hands of his playmakers, most notably Josh Gordon and Jordan Cameron. That said, the star of the show against the Minnesota Vikings was Gordon followed by Cameron. Hoyer made some good throws and allowed those players to be great, but he also made some big mistakes and missed opportunities. It also took a fake punt run and a fake field goal touchdown pass from Spencer Lanning to help them get to those 31 points.
Against a Bengals team without three starters in the secondary, Hoyer took advantage of opportunities to get the ball to Cameron and was able to extend plays with his legs and make some big plays, but that was about the best Hoyer could play and the Browns scored 17 points. Had they not missed two field goals, it is 23 points but nevertheless, hardly a juggernaut offense. It is difficult to imagine that a Hoyer led offense is going to be much better than it was today; two of two in the red zone, no turnovers, and able to make a late game drive to seal the victory.
The Browns have a couple of legitimate weapons in Gordon and Cameron. Cameron, they can build around and the Browns, for better or worse, appear to be stuck gambling on Gordon’s ability to stay on the field. They have a good offensive line, even if the play of Oniel Cousins makes it look horrible right now and they might need to address a spot or two on it, but they can get by with the unit they have with a healthy Shawn Lauvao.
The Browns need another wide receiver to play across from Gordon and allow Davone Bess to do what he does so well unless Greg Little or Travis Benjamin is a revelation the rest of the year. They need a running back and could possibly use two. Dion Lewis can hopefully come back next season and get back to the form that looked so promising this year and there are some rumblings of potential out of Bobby Rainey, but they need someone to lead the group. They could also use another tight end who can come in and block as well as make plays like Steve Heiden was for Kellen Winslow the last time Chud was here. Cameron is great as a receiver, but he is not a blocker any more than Winslow was and while Barnidge can do a few things, he is better suited to be a third tight end than a number two.
The Browns still need to take a quarterback. Hoyer has shown he can be a good backup and could even potentially be a starter if they want to ease a quarterback in next year who is not quite ready to step in and play, which is helpful. Hoyer can come in and run the offense and potentially lead a team to a win, but he is not the answer. The Browns still need someone who can be among the best in the league, elevate the talent around them and potentially win the team to a Super Bowl. With a great cast around him, Hoyer looks like a Matt Schaub or Andy Dalton type. Can get to the playoffs, but is not the guy to win a Super Bowl.
If not for a great defense, the Browns would likely be starting at a 1-3 record rather than 2-2 and the feeling around this team would be completely different after losing to the Bengals. Hoyer would still be making a few plays and leading the offense down the field occasionally, but there would not be a question if he is the man to lead this franchise. A great defense does not change what Hoyer is, but changes what the Browns can be. Because of having a great defense, they have the potential to get a franchise quarterback who can really make the Browns into a contender quickly. Rather than having the defense hold the team long enough for Hoyer an the offense to muster up enough points to win, the offense can score early and often and the defense can put a ton of pressure on the opposing team’s quarterback and break their will.
Hoyer’s story is great, he can be fun to watch, but the Browns offense is missing a few key pieces including a franchise signal caller to run it. It is hard to imagine Hoyer will not continue being the starter and he will have more opportunities to show he is more than a backup, but the Browns defense and the few key players they have on offense can make a competent quarterback look pretty good. Being better than Brandon Weeden makes him good enough to be the guy now, but he needs to be better than Joe Flacco and Ben Roethlisberger and able to compete on the same field as quarterbacks like emerging quarterbacks like Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin III and Ryan Tannehill; not just Christian Ponder and Andy Dalton. Fortunately, Joe Banner does not appear to be equipped with a heart or any sense of emotion when it comes to the roster, so his logic based approach should still have the Browns targeting a quarterback next May as they should. If the goal is to win the Super Bowl, they need a quarterback who can do the job and while Hoyer is a great story, he is likely not the long term answer, but he can be a big reason for why the quarterback this front office picks for the future is a success; think Kenny Guiton to Braxton Miller.